EARLY DETECTION SAVES LIVES - What You Need to Know About Cancer Screening
Sharon Fadale, a kindergarten teacher at First Lutheran in Torrance, always
schedules her yearly doctor appointments during her summer break. So her
July 2017 OB-GYN visit, just before her 47th birthday, was clearly routine.
She had felt nothing unusual during her monthly breast self-checks at
home, so when a nurse inquired if she’d like to go for a 3-D mammogram,
Fadale surprised herself by saying yes.
She didn’t feel she needed a more powerful mammogram, but since her
mother died from uterine cancer in the 1980s, Fadale had become an advocate
for research and causes furthering early detection of cancer. In fact
she is a devout participant in the American Cancer Society’s Relay
for Life and recalled thinking, “Why not get a better mammogram?”
Three years later—now cancer-free with only reconstruction surgery
ahead—Fadale believes an angel intervened that summer day, suggesting
she utilize the technology that ultimately saved her life. “The
breast cancer I had would not be detectable with a regular 2-D mammogram.
My tumor was so far back against my pectoral muscle, if I didn’t
do a 3-D mammogram they would never have found it.
Fadale continues: “I’m all about early detection. I had two
tumors that would not have been detected with a regular 2-D mammogram
or self-exams. They would have grown for a whole year unchecked until
I showed back up for my yearly in 2018.”
The biopsies showed Fadale had two unique tumors, one being triple-positive
(meaning estrogen, progesterone and HER2-receptor positive)—making
it aggressive. (HER2/neu, often just shortened to HER2, is a growth-promoting
protein on the outside of all breast cells. According to the American
Cancer Society, breast cancer cells with higher than normal levels of
HER2 are called HER2-positive. These cancers tend to grow and spread faster
than other breast cancers.)
Thankfully Fadale began treatment in October 2017, which included chemo
and radiation, then a double mastectomy in March 2018, performed by Rashaan
Ali Jones, MD, a Torrance Memorial breast surgeon specialist. She will
return to work September 2019—two years after her ordeal began,
and is now cancer-free.
“Dr. Jewell (Lisa L. Jewell, MD), my plastic surgeon, finishes my
reconstructive surgery next month and I’ll be almost whole again,
which is so exciting,” she shares.
Fadale speaks with a light laughter edging her words, showing her gratitude
and positive outlook. “My advice to all is: Advocate for your own
health. Put yearly exams in your calendar and just do them whether you
like it or not. It’s like knowing you have to eat your spinach—some
things aren’t fun, but they are good for you.”’
Fadale’s family is overjoyed at her outcome. She and husband Jerry
just celebrated their 25-year wedding anniversary and sons Christopher,
20, and Matthew, 18, are both attending El Camino College.